Study: Utah is best at putting foster kids in safe homes

Mar 29, 2023, 12:45 PM

SALT LAKE CITYA study published in March 2023 by the American Enterprise Institute looks nationally at foster care and placing children in safe, stable homes, among other factors. Utah is ranked number one on that list. 

John Thill has seen this play out in his job working with Utah Foster Care as a lead foster adoptive consultant recruiting foster families for part of Utah.

“Many are thinking, I don’t know if I can do this, I don’t know if I have the heart for it, but I would be able to tell you that I think you do, and you might be surprised of all the great you can do,” Thill said.

He also knows it firsthand having cared for 67 foster kids over the years. 

The photos hung on his wall make up his family tree.

“We adopted 19 kids; 17 of those have been adopted through foster care, and all but one of the children who were adopted through foster care were adopted with their siblings,” Thill said.

With kids ranging from 4 years old to 30 years old, Thill is part of the story that paints a bigger picture. 

In this AEI study, foster care entries between Oct. 2014 and March 2018 were followed, along with 2021 data. 

Utah claimed the number one spot in the nation for placing foster children in safe, stable homes through reunification, adoption, guardianship or living with relatives in a certain timeframe.

Kevin Jackson, assistant director for the Division of Child and Family Services, said the study reveals a statewide win.

“It’s really more about a celebration of the child welfare system,” Jackson said.

He said while this is a huge accomplishment for the state, there is still a lot of work to do. In 2022, he said they had 9,695 confirmed victims of abuse or neglect. Over 3,600 kids were served in some capacity of foster care.

They say the goal is to reunite a child with their biological family, if safe to do so.

Currently, he said around 2,000 kids are being cared for in the foster care system. 

There is a need for more foster families.  

“Helping ensure that all Utahns have a fair and equitable opportunity to just live safe and healthy lives,” Jackson said.

Thill said while he and his wife have positively impacted children who come into their home, so have the children positively impacted their lives.

“Really to dispel a lot of myths that may be out there about foster children because they really are just children in foster care. The majority of them are in care because of things imposed on them. You know, nobody asked to be in foster care,” Thill said. “Take a chance.” 

To learn more, you are encouraged to reach out to Utah Foster Care or DCFS.

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Study: Utah is best at putting foster kids in safe homes